Friday 15 April 2022

Stations of the Cross - Timothy Radcliffe and Martin Erspamer

Stations of the Cross: 
Martin Erspamer (Illustrator)
ISBN 9780814665367
eISBN 9781472916778

This year during Lent I went searching for some new editions of Stations of the Cross or Way of the Cross booklets in eBook format. This was one of three I picked up during the first week of Lent, and was the second I read and prayed on the Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent. I try and pray a Stations each day during Lent, and at least Fridays throughout the year. I have a few favourite versions that I return to often, and others I have only used once or twice. This one is in the middle, I am really glad I picked it up and will include it in my rotation occasionally. Many years ago I read and reviewed Seven Last Words, in fact I published my review in the spring of 2007 when I had been reviewing book under a year. Based on my recollections I looked forward to this way, and I was not disappointed.

I need to note that this review is of one of two books with similar titles and artwork:

I have picked up both the one without Community edition is much longer meditations or reflections on each station. As far as I could tell, other than the images, at least for the first few stations do not have any repeat material. The description of this version is:

“During Lent we are surrounded by visual reminders of Jesus' last hours. In Stations of the Cross, renowned author and spiritual master Timothy Radcliffe, OP, offers readers a thoughtful meditation on this powerful devotion. Through word and image Radcliffe offers a profound experience of reflecting on the Stations of the Cross that is both visually and spiritually inspiring. With each reflection, he draws from stunning art commissioned by award-winning liturgical artist Martin Erspamer, OSB.

Stations of the Cross is perfect Lenten reading by an author well regarded for his spiritual writings. It is a beautiful invitation to deeper meditation and richer contemplation of this solemn season of prayer and penance.”

This is a not a concise version of the stations. The reflections in this volume are much longer and meant more for reflection, and not community use. This edition has no prayers, it is just the reflections. The images are identical to those used in Stations of the Cross: Community Prayer Edition. A sample from this version is:

Seventh Station

When Jesus fell for the first time, it was understandable. He was carrying a heavy cross. Who wouldn’t? But now this is carried by Simon. So when he falls again, it must be because he is utterly exhausted. He is drained of all strength.

Our macho society is tempted to look patronizingly on people who are physically weak. The strong and healthy may even have contempt for the feeble: “poor dears,” as the old and sick totter along! In the summer of 2013 I developed an illness that for a short time made it difficult for me to do ordinary things. Getting dressed was a major challenge. Baths were no longer plausible since I was hardly strong enough to get out by myself, and was ashamed to ask for help. I am grateful for that experience, because when I see people who are physically weak, I have been there, and probably will be there again before long. Our Lord shared that physical weakness and blesses it.

He also embraces us in our moral weakness. When we fall for a first time, we can blame someone else. “I am not like that!” But when we fall again and again, we are confronted with our undeniable moral flabbiness. We may be tempted to use this as an excuse. “I am just a weak person. There is nothing that I can do about it,” I might say as I open yet another bottle of wine or eat the third doughnut. But that is a form of despair.

Saint Paul wrote, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). When I am weak, I may discover that I am not alone battling against the wind and the storms. Jesus shared our weakness so that we may share his strength. At the core of each of us is the strong Son of God. In my deepest interiority, God abides, and his grace will lift me up again and again, and put courage back in my heart. Pope Francis said that morality is not “never falling down” but always getting up again.

We keep on walking. The final words of Gregory Roberts’s Shantaram, that remarkable story of an escaped criminal who learned to be a man of peace, invite us to endure: “For this is what we do. Put one foot forward and then the other. Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the world once more … Drag our shadowed crosses into the hope of another night. Push our brave hearts into the promise of a new day … For so long as fate keeps us waiting, we live on. God help us. God forgive us. We live on.”

This is a great volume for taking more time, and spending some extra time in deep reflection on each station. The preface of this volume starts with:

“Almost every Catholic church has the Stations of the Cross on its walls. Moving from each station to the next, we accompany Jesus on his short journey from the palace of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, where he was condemned to death, to the cross and then to his tomb. This brief and tortuous journey happened in a hot and dusty city in the Middle East two thousand years ago. What sense does it make to reenact it in churches from Alaska to Cape Town today? What is going on?

This ancient devotion is the fruit of two traditions that are in fruitful tension with each other. On the one hand, God is everywhere; we do not have to go to any special place to encounter the divine. God is just as much in Johannesburg or Jakarta as Jerusalem. On the other hand, God became flesh and blood in this particular human being, who lived in a remote outpost of the Roman Empire, which therefore remains for us still today the Holy Land. We ignite interesting insights when contrasting traditions rub against each other!”

And it concludes with:

“Each station recalls a moment when Jesus stopped. A “station” means simply a place of stopping, as trains stop in railway stations. He stops to talk to people in compassion; he stops when he falls to the ground out of exhaustion, unable to carry on; he stops at Golgotha because that is the end of the road. Jesus is close to us when we too are stopped in our tracks and wonder whether we can carry on anymore. We may be halted by illness or failure, by grief or despair. But Jesus carries on, making his slow way to the cross and to the resurrection, and brings us with himself in hope. Let us set out.”

I believe this version was released in 2014 with editions from both Liturgical Press and Bloomsbury Publishing there are several different editions since that first release. This is a great volume for reflection and personal devotion.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

For all other reviews of Stations of the Cross click here.

Books by Timothy Radcliffe:
Alive in God: A Christian Imagination
Christians and Sexuality in the Time of AIDS
I Call You Friends
Just One Year: A Global Treasury of Prayer and Worship
Sing a New Song: The Christian Vocation
Take the Plunge: Living Baptism and Confirmation
That Your Joy May Be Full
The Catholic Prayerbook from Downside Abbey
What is the Point of Being a Christian?
Why Go to Church?

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